How Transition Became Growth

Scott Schmidt

What started off as a transition period for Scott quickly became an opportunity to make a difference in the wake of two huge natural disasters. Read about his journey here.

My plans to move back to Houston after separating from the military were disrupted by Hurricane Harvey. So I began to look for housing and employment in Denver. I quickly learned that a tight housing market and the bureaucracy of obtaining medical licensure provided me with time and opportunity to volunteer during my transition to civilian life. 

First, I flew to Houston. Then I drove to a small southern county that had been devastated by the storm. I spent my days tearing down saturated walls in disrepair and mitigating the extensive mold problem in each house I visited. At night, a community church offered us both dinner and a room to sleep. Nearing the end of the trip, I was asked if I was able to deploy from Houston to western Puerto Rico, an area of the island which had been in many ways forgotten due to its inaccessibility. The question was not if I was able, but rather, was I willing?

Amassing employment, lack of stable housing, and the demands of the doctoral program at Georgetown, I felt overwhelmed. I then I reflected on just how relative and circumstantial stress may be. My prospects were clear and I had a stable vision of my future regardless of how destabilizing this life transition felt. 


Scott, second row, third from the left, and fellow Greyshirts deployed on Operation Coqui Calling.


Thus, I got on a plane in Houston and arrived into San Juan an hour before midnight. I departed west across the mountains to the far coast of Puerto Rico. I arrived to meet a group of thirty-three extraordinary individuals where we slept in an abandoned dialysis clinic and washed our clothes every few days in the Caribbean Sea. The days started early and ended late. We would split up daily into medical ‘strike teams’ of four or five individuals that provided care to those with little prospect but laudable courage. The Operation Coqui Calling, named after the Coqui frog common to Puerto Rico, provided care to over 1000 individuals in the short time I was there, some of whom were in critical condition.


Scott, examining a patient.

I thank my wife, Julia, my classmates, and the educators at Georgetown for enabling my ability to live the school’s mission of advancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Jesuit values were replete in my experience, including social justice, cura personalis, value of the common good, and even now as I write this, contemplation in action. 

I’m grateful for this.
Read More Stories